Center for Justice and International Law issues statement on the Mapiripán v. Colombia case

11-01-11

Washington D.C., November 1, 2011 – As is public knowledge, Mariela Contreras, a witness in the Mapiripán v. Colombia case decided by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in 2005, has allegedly recently retracted the statements she gave in Colombian proceedings in 2002 and before the Inter-American Court in 2005. This has generated a vigorous debate in Colombia over the magnitude of the crimes that were committed, the penalties given to those responsible, and the duties of both the justice administration, as well as the lawyers representing the accusers.

First, it is essential to clarify that there is no doubt in either the domestic or international arena as to the occurrence of the massacre. Nor is there any doubt as to the shared role of the AUC and members of security forces in events, which were widely reported in the press and for which both the state and the paramilitaries themselves have recognized their responsibility. Second, CEJIL shares the concern of the justice administration, our colleagues from the José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers’ Collective (CCAJAR), the government, and Colombian society when faced with the possibility that this witness may have manipulated the process at the national and international level with false declarations, and we are confident that this situation will be properly investigated and clarified.
 
On the other hand, it should be emphasized that CEJIL and CCAJAR began representing Mariela Contreras in the international proceedings in 2003, four years after the initial petition in the Mapiripán case was presented before the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, and one year after her declaration to the Attorney General of Colombia.
 
Moreover, her statement was entirely consistent with the statements of her children, the forensic evidence, evidence of relevant documents, the testimony of the authorities, among them judge Novoa Cortes, as well as with the statements of expert witnesses, victims and their family members. When litigating a case, the evidence is fundamentally based on the entire body of evidence that exists at the internal level and on all the information provided by the State. Additionally, it should be noted that the Colombian state itself, represented by the Executive authority, repeatedly included Mrs. Contreras among the family members of the victims of the massacre during the international proceedings and assumed international responsibility for the crimes committed.
 
The uncertainty over the number of victims of the Mapiripán massacre is not a new issue, but rather was clearly identified during international litigation. Indeed, the difficulty in reaching a precise number of victims was identified by the Inter-American Court in their 2005 judgment as one of the shortcomings of the state’s investigation. In that judgment, the Court ordered the state to conduct all due diligence necessary to individualize and identify each executed and disappeared victim and their family members within a reasonable amount of time. That same Court reaffirmed that, precisely because of the way in which the massacre was planned and executed, it was possible that, in exceptional cases, the whereabouts of persons previously taken for dead could be established in the course of a criminal investigation.
 
In light of this information, CEJIL and the other human rights organizations connected to this case remain committed to establishing the truth, bringing those responsible to justice and determining the reparations owed to the victims.
 
Contact in Washington Milli Legrain mlegrain@cejil.org Tel (1) 202 319 3000